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Fifteenth century feasts. Make them at home.

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Carciofi alla Romana with Ricotta Crostini. By Nancy Silverton
28/11/2011
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Ingredients for the Ricotta Crostini:
 
-          8 ½-inch-thick slices from a batard (or 16 slices from a baguette or 4 slices from a large round rustic white loaf, cut in half)
-          1 cup of fresh ricotta
-          High-quality extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
-          Maldon sea salt
-          Freshly ground black pepper
 
Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 350°F.
 
Place the bread slices on a baking sheet, brush the tops with olive oil, and bake them for 15 to 20 minutes, until they’re lightly toasted and golden brown. (You can also toast the bread in a toaster but without the oil. Then brush the toast with oil after they’re done.) Rub the oiled side of the crostini with the garlic and set them on your work surface, oiled side up. Spread 2 tablespoons of ricotta in an uneven layer on each crostini, leaving the edges of the bread visible. Season the ricotta with salt and pepper.
 
Ingredients for the Carciofi alla Romana
-          4 lemons
-          16 Italian or baby artichokes
-          ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed to cover the artichokes (2 or more cups)
-          1 large Spanish yellow onion, sliced
-          16 large garlic cloves, sliced
-          Kosher salt
-          2 fresh rosemary sprigs
 
Fill a large bowl with water. Cut two of the lemons in half, squeeze their juice into the water, and drop the lemon halves in the water. Wearing plastic gloves, if you have them, remove and discard the outer leaves from the artichokes until you are left with only the light green hearts of the artichokes. Cut off the rough stem ends of the artichokes, leaving as much as one or two inches of the stems attached. Using a vegetable peeler or a small, sharp knife, shave the artichoke stems, revealing the light green inner stems. Cut ½-inch to 2/4-inches off the tip ends of the artichokes so they have flat tops.
 
Place the finished artichokes in the lemon water as you finish the remaining chokes. You can prepare the artichokes to this point up to a day in advance. Leave them in the lemon-water until you’re ready to braise them. Or, braise them (see below) up to a week in advance and store them in the braising oil until you’re ready to use them.
Pour the ¼ cup of olive oil in a large sauté pan. Add the onion and garlic, season generously with salt and cook over high heat for about 2 minutes, so the onions begin to soften. (You don’t need to break down the onions; you just want to start the softening process.) Add the artichokes and season them generously with salt. Add enough olive oil to cover the artichokes; the amount will vary depending on the size of the pan in which you are cooking the artichokes. Squeeze the juice of another of the remaining lemons into the pot with the artichokes and drop the lemon halves into the olive oil. Add the rosemary sprigs. Place a large coffee filter or a piece of cheesecloth on top of the artichokes and pat it down to saturate the paper or cloth with the oil so that it rests directly on top of the oil. This keeps the artichokes submerged without steaming them as it would if you put a lid on them.
 
With the pot still over high heat, heat the oil until it begins to boil just around the edges of the pot; you don’t want the oil at a rolling boil. Reduce the heat to low and cook the artichokes without tending to them for 25 to 35 minutes, until they are just barely tender when pierced with a small, sharp knife. Remove the pot from the heat, take off the coffee filter or cheese cloth if you have used one, and let the artichokes cool in the oil for at least 15 minutes; they will continue to cook gently as they sit in the oil, making them very tender and buttery in texture.
 
When the artichokes have cooled to room temperature, drain them in a colander, reserving the oil. Remove and discard the onion and garlic. Store the artichokes in the oil until you are ready to use them, or reserve the oil to cook another batch of artichokes.
 
On a small plate, arrange two artichokes with the stems crossing. Drizzle with some of the remaining cooking oil. Place crostini on side of artichokes. Finish with a small pinch of Kosher salt and serve.
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